Angela Jia Kim

Savor Beauty + Spa / Savor the Success - CEO + Founder
New York, NY

    Savor Woman of the Week: Caroline Ceniza-Levine says "We Are Enough"

    September 6, 2012

    I met with Caroline Ceniza-Levine of Six Figure Start in a West Village cafe one day and was inspired by her ability to keep her creative spark alive outside of business. It was refreshing for me to experience another hard-hitting entrepreneur who makes space in her busy life for her stand-up comic endeavors and film passions. 

    When we interviewed Caroline for this piece, she pointed out something that I have observed lately in women entrepreneurs. Have you noticed that we often feel we must constantly reach outside of ourselves to become more? We take courses, invest in coaching, and buy things because it's never enough. At some point, when we take back our power and collect all that we have - knowledge, resources, and experience - we realize that we are actually rich beyond measure and have the power to manifest what we want in life. 

    Caroline shares the Native American adage, "We Are Enough". Or, take it from Picasso:

    My mother once said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general; if you become a monk, you'll end up as the Pope.' Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso. 

    Get inspired by Caroline's journey and the lessons she learned from burn out to passion. 

    Describe your lifestyle as an entrepreneur. 

    SixFigureStart is in its fifth year, and for the first four years, I worked six, sometimes seven, days per week. In our fourth year, I had exceeded my salary from my corporate career but was feeling burnt out. So I resolved to take my weekends back. My lifestyle is infinitely better because of it!

    In addition, I make time for my creative pursuits - I'm a stand-up comic and have performed at various NYC venues, including the Gotham Comedy Club, and I'm a partner in an independent film production company that specializes in the intersection of sci fi/ horror and multicultural casting.

    Finally, I'm a wife (I married my high school prom date!) and mother of 2 daughters (ages 11 and 16). I have a big extended family and am active in my church.

    So my lifestyle is full and rich and despite growing SixFigureStart 600% since it started, amazingly balanced.

    What inspires you?

    I've always loved business and the arts. I've always been close to family. I feel like I have the best of all worlds right now, and staying in this place that I enjoy so much inspires me to keep going.

    What was one of the biggest obstacles you faced when starting your own business?

    I have, what the coaching industry would call, "gremlins" or "saboteurs" with money. This means that I worry about money A LOT. I left a very secure six-figure corporate career to start a business. Now as a service-based business, I didn't need capital per se, so I didn't outlay any money, but at the time I left corporate, I was contributing half of our household income. So I needed to be cash flow positive from year one. Not to mention, I was just afraid of walking away from a regular salary. It was the fear of losing the money, rather than actually risking any money, that was the biggest obstacle.

    What advice would you give to a woman facing the same or similar obstacles right now?

    There are so many ways to fund your entrepreneurial dreams. In fact, I spoke at Ali Brown's SHINE national business conference specifically about funding because it's such a hot-button issue. In my case, I laid down the plan for my business while I was working. So I did the day job form of funding. I also drew down from my home equity. So I went into debt. When the business would be slow and I didn't want to dip into cash reserves, I took on consulting projects outside of the target business. So I had a side hustle.

    Some people take investors or a bank loan. I didn't do that but these are other options. As you can see, there are many options, and one or more will be right for you. The money obstacle doesn't have to stop you.

    That said, in my case, it was a psychological fear more than an actual money problem. The advice I give for this is to use fear to fight the fear. I focused on the fear of regretting not going for my own business. I used the fear of not having the creative life I always imagined. At some point those fears outweighed my fear of money.

    Favorite part or tool of Savor:

    I joined because I was so impressed with the Tuesday monthly mastermind groups. Since then, I most frequently use the PR opportunities posted, Twitter Thursdays, and am a member of Savor's 7-Figure Club. 

    What is one gold nugget of advice that you can give Savor entrepreneurs?

    Start from where you are. I knew that I was fearful, and I used that in my favor. I didn't spend my time trying to talk myself out of what I was really feeling. I allowed myself to be who I was and figured out how to succeed anyway.

    I see so many people think they have to be something else or something more - more courageous, more financially secure, more knowledge about xyz. You can start your business from exactly where you are and what and who you already know. Of course, I also believe you should stretch, grow and learn. Since launching, I've learned so much about sales, marketing, social media, PR, and other things that weren't in my knowledge base before (I have an HR and management consulting background). But I was able to learn as I grew my business. Don't feel like you have to learn everything from day one.

    I love this Native American adage: We are the ones we have been waiting for.

    I used it in a recent Savor blog that included other powerful quotes about reclaiming our power. 

    We know that business can get tough at times, and the difference between moving forward and slipping through the cracks is our own thoughts. How do you stop from holding yourself and your business back?

    I literally say to myself, "You have plenty of time." This simple phrase is a mental trigger to remind myself that I shouldn't feel so rushed and that I can absolutely find time for what's important. I use this phrase specifically because I know that when I get anxious I feel rushed and particularly constricted around time. If time isn't an issue for you, try a different trigger!

    Where do you see yourself and your business ten years from now?

    I want to be doing what I'm doing now - coaching, teaching, speaking, writing, comedy, other arts, family, community. 10 years from now, the projects will be different, but the essence will be the same. This is why I'm really enjoying my life and business right now. 

    How do you recover from a tough day? Is there anything that can instantly turn your day around?

    My days are set up to balance between business, arts and family. I also practice regular self-care - Pilates, acupuncture, journaling, seeing friends. My days are pretty happy. Of course, stuff happens. In my case, I use phone-a-friend. An additional "lifeline" is ice cream. :)

    If you got to play "hookie" from work one day, what would be on your list of fun things to do?

    I love shows. Sometimes I just go on these kicks where I see lots of shows back-to-back. July is traditionally slow for my business so I got tickets to Traces, Ghost, Memphis, Potted Potter (7 Harry Potter books in 70 minutes!), Evita, Phantom of the Opera, and Cirque du Soleil. This is why I love that I'm in NYC!

    What did you want to be when you were a little girl?

    In some way, I am a lot of things I dreamed about being:

    Singer - I have done cabaret but my main outlet is comedy and improv these days
    Doctor - I'm not in the medical field, but I am a caregiver as a mom and coach
    Teacher - I lead workshops and also teach Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and salary negotiation at Barnard College

    Was there something in your childhood that influenced what you are doing today?

    My mom emigrated from the Philippines and is self-made (my parents divorced when I was a newborn and my sister was 2), sometimes working multiple jobs. But she figured out how to make it work - enrolling me in a community music school that led to a spot in Juilliard Pre-College (for piano) and cobbling together enough to put me through Barnard College, where the supportive alumnae base got me my first big corporate break at Goldman Sachs. 

    Seeing my mom hustle 24/7 and the amazing results the she produced for me and my sister was my first proof that hard work and the help of a strong network are enough to make success under even difficult conditions.

    Who do you consider to be one of the most successful women in history, or currently? What do you think women entrepreneurs can learn from her?

    I love the story of Sara Blakely, a self-made billionaire (yes, that's billions) as the founder of Spanx. She got rejected from law school and kept going. She worked a door-to-door sales job full-time for 2 years while founding Spanx. She didn't take any investors and was still able to build a business into hundreds of millions in revenue and a $1 Bn valuation. 

    The big takeaway for me is that you don't need to be born into money or born into connections. You do need hard work and persistence, which all Savor women seem to possess in spades. So it's just more proof that We Are Enough.

    If you could do it all over again, what would you skip, and/or what would MAKE CERTAIN to do twice?

    I would skip the worry - a lot of the things I was scared of never happened, and when bad things did happen, I was always able to find a way if I didn't give up.

    I would absolutely prioritize the joy. For me, this is time for arts, family and community in addition to business. It enables me to focus on my business and I have found that my clients love this about my background. It really is true that when you own up to exactly who you are, you attract the right people, the right opportunities, and the most fulfilling type of success.

    Do you have an exclusive offer you'd like to give the Savor community?

    My business coaching focuses on how my clients can make more money with the skills, expertise and network they already have. So often we chase the new thing rather than identify, repeat and expand what already works. For coaching booked before September 30 (which can be used after September), I am offering a 33% discount. Just let me know you're a Savor member when you register for coaching!

    Thank you, Caroline, for being our Woman of the Week!

    Angela Jia Kim is a woman entrepreneur advocate, organic lifestyle guru, doting mom, New York City (not house)wife, and author-in-the-making.

    She uses her organic skincare business, Om Aroma, to empower and inspire other business owners by openly sharing mistakes (the kind most sweep under the rug) and lessons learned (the kind most keep as secrets to get ahead).

    She believes that building business is directly tied to self growth, that it takes a village to raise a business, and that your business is meant to serve the life you want to live. 

    Read Angela Jia 's other blog entries >

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